3 simple ways to make a creative breakthrough at your startup

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Imagine an Executive Education program designed to catapult the next generation of creative leaders—offering the very best of business school and design school.

Then find the most culturally and professionally diverse and highly impressive cohort of MBAs, entrepreneurs, World Economic Forum Young Global Leaders and technology pioneers, artists, engineers, Ashoka Fellows, TED Fellows, Singularity University Fellows…

Throw in a board representing McKinsey, Stanford’s d-School, Pixar and Creative Commons. Work with partners like the Carbon War Room, Phillips, and the Lego Foundation.

Get rid of lectures.

Replace with deep conversations, boat forums, open innovation projects, experiential learning, serious play and a holistic approach to mind and body balance.

You just might start to get an idea of the most inspiring and transformational Executive Education program I have ever attended at the THNK Amsterdam School for Creative Leadership.

The 18-month program is designed to accelerate the impact of some pretty amazing people with lofty goals. Like building an interface that helps users regain control over digital data; and engineering an online platform that allows societies to design their own currency based on their local values. 

We began with a pre-program THNK Mirror assessment (which anyone can currently take for free) to get a 360-peer report on 5 overarching competencies and sub-competencies that creative leaders should nurture:- 

  1. Acting with passion & purpose
  2. Envisioning a better future
  3. Explorative mindset
  4. Orchestrating creative teams
  5. Driving breakthrough change

For me, even just taking the assessment highlighted the areas I had personally been neglecting in my own enterprise.

Part of our creative leadership development also includes learning the tools of the THNK Creation Flow: an innovative methodology developed by THNK that somewhat unorthodoxly combines design thinking with linear problem solving techniques used by management consulting firms.

Here Are Three Practical Things I Learned At THNK

1. Learning to Reframe.

Reframing is a key technique used in the THNK curriculum and one that can be applied to both professional or personal situations requiring a new perspective; such as rethinking a relationship, or coming up with new products and services.

The tool enables creative ideas to emerge by forcing us to analyze and reframe our core beliefs, and I have found it particularly useful for identifying opportunities in adversity.

For example “I see no opportunity to sell shoes in this country, nobody wears shoes.” Is reframed to “Glorious business opportunity to sells shoes, nobody has them yet.”

You can try is using THNK’s online ReFrame tool.

2. The Art of Letting Go

This is a tough one for me.

As entrepreneurs we tend to be over-achievers. We usually think we know better the fact that we’re entrepreneurs in the first place means that we believe we can do or make something better than someone else did or could.

Some of us also have the gift (and curse) of being over-organized, over-prepared, and some may even say: a little OCD. 

I used to love surprises and embracing the unexpected. I used to adore drama improvisation workshops at school. Today, my meticulously planned processes and schedules allow room for neither serendipity nor co-creation.

Don’t get me wrong; organizational skills are invaluable for many endeavors but, here are some of the downfalls.

First of all, these slightly obsessional traits can also lead to never-ending perfectionism. As a close someone likes to remind me “Done is better than perfect.”

Secondly, not letting go can mean an unwillingness to delegate. And worse; it obliterates the potential for a co-creation of ideas and ultimately, more innovative solutions.

3. “There are no bad ideas, only bad adapters.”

As someone who instinctively plans the journey— and already knows the destination while the instructions are being given, I learned that:

“YES, AND...” creates a breakthrough.

Try this little exercise: think of the last time someone from your team offered you an idea or suggestion that you shot down by saying “Yeah, but…” because you already had your own vision of the outcome.

Now, replace this response with “Yes, AND…” and try to build on the ideas by giving up individual creativity for co-creation.

If you just thought to yourself “Yeah, but…” about this exercise then this one’s definitely for you!

Yes it can be terrifying to give up control over the direction of an idea, but the creative exploration of possibilities is addictive—I can’t wait to go back for my second THNK module!

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